4 on trial for theft of $1m gold coin

The Independent on Saturday - - WORLD -

FOUR men went on trial on Thurs­day over the theft of a gold coin the size of a man­hole cover from one of Ger­many’s flag­ship mu­se­ums in a dar­ing night-time heist us­ing a lad­der and a wheel­bar­row.

Ger­man au­thor­i­ties be­lieve the 100kg Cana­dian “Big Maple Leaf” – once recog­nised as the big­gest gold coin in the world – has been melted down since its theft from Ber­lin’s Bode Mu­seum in March last year. Pros­e­cu­tors say three of the sus­pects broke into the mu­seum through an up­stairs win­dow and used a lad­der, wheel­bar­row and rope to ex­tract the coin from a bul­let-proof glass.

The fourth sus­pect was a mu­seum guard ac­cused of help­ing them.

The coin, more than half a me­tre in di­am­e­ter, 3cm thick and made from ul­tra-pure gold, is one of just six pro­duced by the Royal Cana­dian Mint in 2007 and was lent to the mu­seum by a pri­vate owner. It has a face value of $1 mil­lion (R13.8m) but is thought to be worth four times as much.

It was recog­nised by the Guin­ness Book of World Records as the largest gold coin in the world at the time it was made, al­though Aus­tralia has since minted one even big­ger.

Like other Cana­dian coins it bears the im­age of Canada’s head of state, Bri­tain’s Queen El­iz­a­beth.

The sus­pects were not iden­ti­fied un­der Ger­man le­gal rules.

Three of them are re­lated and three were un­der the age of 21 at the time of the crime, which means the trial took place in a youth court.

The men hid their faces be­hind mag­a­zines as they en­tered the court and dur­ing the pro­ceed­ings.

All are charged with se­ri­ous theft, said the court. Ger­man me­dia say the men could face up to three years and 10 months in jail.

The Bode Mu­seum has one of the world’s largest coin col­lec­tions with more than 540 000 items.

AP

A DE­FEN­DANT cov­ers his face as he ar­rives in the court in Ber­lin, Ger­many, for the start of the trial over the brazen theft of a 100kg Cana­dian gold coin from the Bode Mu­seum in March last year. | dpa

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